Dame Sally Coates Steps In at West London Free School

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Dame Sally Coates, the former head of Burlington Danes Academy in Shepherd's Bush, has stepped in to "keep an eye" on West London Free School and assist the school as it searches for a new headteacher.

Writer Toby Young, who led a group of parents in setting up the free school confirmed her role on Friday May 9, saying:
" Dame Sally Coates has very kindly agreed to keep on eye on the school this term and help us recruit a new head.

" It's not a formal role. Rather, she's acting as a mentor and adviser to the acting head and the senior leadership team. So far she's been brilliant and everyone at the school is very impressed.

" With Dame Sally's help I'm confident we'll find an excellent new head."

The new head will be the third since the free school opened in September 2011. The first, Thomas Packer, was moved up to Education Director early in 2013 before leaving on August 31, 2013 to be replaced by deputy head Sam Naismith, who left without warning last week.

Toby Young has also confirmed that the school has bought a third building in Hammersmith, at a cost of over £9.25 million.

This building, 2 Bridge Avenue, was extensively refurbished last autumn to create what estate agent Savills described as Grade A office accommodation.

The school is currently based in Cambridge Grove in Hammersmith. Its original plan was to move to Palingswick House in King Street in September 2013, with the Cambridge Grove site given over to the West London Free School Primary, which opened with two reception classes of 30 children each in September last year.

The Cambridge Grove site will also house a second primary, Earls Court Primary Free School, from September. It is intended to have a permanent home in future within the Earls Court redevelopment, though that development has yet to begin.

However building work on Palingswick House is still not completed and an application for temporary classrooms has not yet been approved. As the secondary school is now too large to share the Cambridge Grove site, it seems the school will be split between buildings, including 2 Bridge Avenue, which will require renovation to become suitable as a school.

Faced with criticism over these moves on the Evening Standard's website, Toby Young said:
" Yes, the West London Free School currently has three sites in Hammersmith but it also has three schools in Hammersmith – a secondary and two primaries. We were asked to set up the primaries by the local authority because of the acute shortage of primary school places in the area thanks to the last government's short-sighted cuts. 

" Overall, the cost of setting up the three schools in our multi-academy trust will be far lower than the amount of money the last government would have spent under its ludicrously inefficient Building Schools for the Future programme to create three new schools.

" The £9.25m figure you mention is less than a third of the average cost of a new BSF school. Andy Slaughter should be thanking my trust for helping to clean up the mess his party made and at such a reasonable cost."

Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter responded: " I don’t have a problem with money going to education or new schools opening, but I want all children in my constituency to get the money, not for it to be handed out to Michael Gove’s mates."

May 9, 2014